Nease High School girls basketball coach Sherri Anthony has had many accolades in her 30-plus years of coaching, and now, she can add national coach of the year finalist to the list.
Anthony, who is entering her 32nd season at Nease and has accumulated more than 500 wins with the Lady Panthers, is one of eight nominees for the National High School Athletic Coaches Association’s (NHSACA) National Coach of the Year award in the sport of basketball. Anthony was nominated by Florida high school coaching legend Ed Kershner. In January, Anthony learned she had won the Coach of the Year award for the Southeast region and would be a finalist for the national award.
“I’m very blessed to be able to represent coaches from the Southeast, and especially our area, because we’ve got some great coaches and we’ve got some great teams,” said Anthony, who is also the dean of students at Landrum Middle School.
The NHSACA coaches of the year will be named during a ceremony on June 27 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Anthony said she is honored to be a part of the event.
“I’m just going to be proud to be there, and representing not only Nease, but the whole Southeast region and the state, because there are so many people out there who are worthy of this,” Anthony said. “I’m just going to be very humbled and honored to be standing there.”
As part of the nomination process and determining the finalists, Anthony was asked to submit a presentation on what made her a coaching success. Among the things she highlights is her “foundation of faith and fairness,” the importance of relationships and loyalty and the ability to change and persevere.
“They’re going to ask us why we think our program has been so successful, and it’s going to start with the coaching staff and the administration’s support and the parents’ support,” said Anthony. “We try to really emphasize that we have to have the community involved, helping each other, and teamwork and camaraderie. You’ve got to have all those pieces before you can start worrying about X’s and O’s.”
Anthony’s presentation details the job of “coach,” which she said is much more than the title may suggest. According to Anthony, it’s a “labor of love.”
Anthony also credits the unwavering love and support of her late parents for her success.
“My father was my mentor when it came to basketball and coaching, and my mother was my rock and biggest fan,” said Anthony. “If it hadn’t been for them, I would have never had what I had. When they were alive, they didn’t miss one game, not high school, not college, not when I was coaching.”
Anthony also emphasized the importance of loyalty, not just to a school, where she’s been for 31 years, but as a team and a friend. That message starts with the coaching staff, especially longtime assistants Bernie Blue, Nease’s track and field coach who has been with Anthony from the beginning, and Nicole Bence.
“It’s been a great opportunity over the years to work with them,” said Anthony. “I can’t say enough about them. …We’ve been together long enough; we can really say we’ve grown this program into something we’re proud of.”
She also hopes the loyalty and camaraderie the coaching staff has built translates to the players.
“That’s what we want for them to see,” said Anthony. “The loyalty to each other, the loyalty to the game, to the school. That it’s something that should be applied to all those things, to your family, your friends, your job.”
And in 31 seasons of coaching girls basketball, Anthony has seen a lot of changes in the sport.
“This generation of players is so different from the last generation of players,” she said. “They have all these distractions, like social media, that we didn’t have 10 years ago, much less 20 or 30 years ago. We have to play a lot more teams, a lot more games. It’s just evolved, and we had to evolve with it to be successful.”
Anthony also realizes the unique challenges in coaching girls and recognizes the importance of the message that is being sent.
“I want them to feel they’re capable of doing anything they put their minds to,” she said. “I think it’s perfect timing in our culture right now that girls do feel empowered, that they do feel like that if they put the same hard work in, they should benefit and get the same credit.”
She’s also been fortunate to witness the growing appreciation for girls and women’s basketball, as well as better access to basketball camps, weight rooms and greater competition — and the opportunities that come with it.
“There are still some changes I’d like to see, but, overall, I think they’ve gotten way more opportunities than they’ve ever had,” said Anthony. “It’s been awhile, but it’s come a long way since I graduated (college).”
But the main thing Anthony hopes to reinforce is that the success of Nease’s program is a shared one, based on her relationship with God, her family, her coaching staff and the school where she has spent most of her 36-year coaching career.
“I just wanted to be sure and give the Nease administration credit for supporting me in this endeavor and throughout the year,” said Anthony. “I think God’s been very good to me. I’ve been allowed to stay in the same place long enough to build something.”
Regardless of what happens at the national awards ceremony on June 27, Anthony has already proven she’s a winner.